Indiana Convenience Stores Make Another Try for Cold Beer

Indiana Convenience Stores Make Another Try for Cold Beer

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Sunday sales of alcohol in Indiana were a step forward in 2018, but not everyone was happy with where the changes ended. One of the bargaining chips that the Indiana Retail Council and the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers used when they said they would end their opposition to a prohibition on Sunday sales was that they wanted to keep the law as written for cold beer sales.

In Indiana, only liquor stores and producers have the right to sell beer that is cold. Convenience and grocery stores can sell room temperature beer, but not cold beer. In fact, convenience and grocery stores can sell cold wine coolers and cold cider, some of which have higher alcohol contents than beer – but not cold beer itself. This leaves Indiana as the sole state that regulates beer sales based on temperature at the time of sale.

In 2016, a few Ricker’s convenience stores thought they had found a way around the warm beer law by putting in a couple of tables and selling burritos for on site consumption. This allowed them, they contended, to purchase a liquor license that would allow for cold alcohol sales. However, after lawmakers were made aware of the development, a legislative patch was placed over the loophole and convenience stores were once again back to selling warm beer only.

image credit: The Journal Gazette

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (IPCA) is a state trade association that represents gas stations and convenience stores and has a lobby effort that comes under the title of “Chill Indiana”, see their website here. Their site that points out certain issues involved in the cold beer debate and lobbies for a change in the state law. Recently, the IPCA has taken a new track in their fight against the prohibition on cold beer sales. The “Chill Bag” is an end run around the law and a way to bring attention to the issue.

Patrons make a one time purchase of a plastic bag (suggested retail $6.99), big enough to hold a six pack of beer and with a large rigid opening at the top that has a screw top lid. After purchase, the customer can return to any participating store with that bag and fill it with ice for free when they purchase of room temperature beer. Currently, the bags are available at 62 Indiana gas stations and convenience stores throughout the state, with another 60 or so waiting for delivery of the bags.

So, a customer will now have a warm six pack and a screw top bag containing ice, what could they possibly do with those two things? True, convenience stores have sold ice for years, and they do carry styrofoam coolers for icing down beer once purchased, but the Chill bags offer a couple of advantages. One, the reusable bag is handier, lasts longer, and is environmentally friendly. These are are good aspects, but the real point to the new product lies in the second advantage. This is a high profile lobby effort that has a certain pointed message, right down to the name “Chill Indiana.” In the end, this is an effort to bring back the discussion and move the debate forward, as least as it applies to the convenience store effort. And look – it worked, Indiana On Tap just wrote a short article about it.

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